Do we have to feel weird or uncomfortable when we talk about love and sex?
They’re two of the most fundamental and shared human desires… And yet we don’t even talk to our partners about what we want from relationships.
Somehow, the act that creates us has turned into this embarrassing taboo. Love has been so strictly defined that we fear to say what we really need (and can’t get) from our relationships.
Have you ever held back your opinions about sex, love, or relationships just because you’re afraid of others judging you? I know I’ve avoided the topic because I was afraid to hear that I was “doing love wrong.” But love is changing in the Digital Age, and some of our old judgments may no longer apply.
In this Q&A on love and lust from A-Fest Ibiza by Mindvalley, Founder Vishen Lakhiani and three of the world’s most unique and celebrated voices on modern relationships answer the questions you’ve always wanted to ask. Who are these three experts?
Esther Perel is a Psychotherapist, a New York Times bestselling author, and the speaker of two Ted Talks on modern love that have gone viral with over 20 million views. Dan Savage is an activist for the LGBTQ+ community and the author of the internationally syndicated column, Savage Love, known for his frank advice on sex and relationships. Before Marisa Peer was named Britain’s best therapist by Tatler magazine and became the Mindvalley Author of Uncompromised Life, she wrote for a sex advice column for 14 years.
Their unique voices, backgrounds, and perspectives create one of the frankest, funniest, and most insightful discussions I’ve ever seen — on any subject.
Here are the 9 lessons I learned from this panel:
1. Honest Discussions About Sex Are Necessary
The topics that are taboo are usually the ones we need to discuss the most. Growing up, we received a lot of negative messages about sex and were often actively discouraged from exploring how we felt about it. Many of us inherited our views about appropriate relationships from our parents or our culture — and in most cases, that meant monogamous, long-term, and with a partner from a similar background.
It’s no wonder that talking honestly about what we want from our relationship seems like a daunting task.
But imagine going to a restaurant where you couldn’t select what you want to eat. Your parents chose for you. And then imagine that you’d have to eat that same meal for the rest of your life. Wouldn’t you want to have a say?
The same goes for sex and commitment. It’s an individual choice. There’s no “right way” to do love or sex.
As Dan Savage says, “We each get to do love the way that love works for us, as a couple or as an individual.” Even all of the experts on the panel have a different idea of what love and commitment looks like to them. You can figure out what works best for you by asking yourself questions and delving down deep to answer honestly.
Here are some questions you might want to ask:
- What does partnership mean to you?
- Do you want a monogamous relationship — or do you want to explore polyamoury?
- Is sex an important part of your relationship — or do you want a more companion-like relationship?
2. Don’t Ride The Ride If You’re Not Willing To Pay The Price Of Admission
Here’s a truth most people don’t want to admit: “The One” doesn’t exist. There will never be someone who fulfills all of your needs, desires, and expectations.
But that doesn’t take away from the love you have for your partner and the love your partner has for you. In fact, it’s a compliment of the highest order to say, “I love you enough to make you The One, even though you’re not perfect for me.”
And since we always have to compromise a certain amount, the price means that your partner might do certain things that irritate you. Your relationship might have some rolling conflicts and minor incompatibilities. Dan Savage calls this the “price of admission.”
“If you pay a certain amount to ride a rollercoaster,” he says, “and you complain the entire time you’re on a rollercoaster about how much it fucking costs, then the price of admission wasn’t worth it. So don’t ride that ride.” Your partner is not going to be perfect for you, and you are not going to be perfect for them. But if the issue at hand is something that you can live with, then stop focusing on it and enjoy what you love about your partner.
3. Your Partner Can’t Be Your Everything
If you’re not feeling completely fulfilled from your relationship, there’s a chance that you might be placing the entire responsibility of your personal fulfillment on the back of your partner. We too often expect our partner to be able to give us everything, but it’s a modern misconception to believe that our partner has to be our best friend, our mentor, our lover, and our co-pilot. That they have to satiate our need for desire, love, stability, adventure, novelty, continuity, meaning, and emotional and sexual fulfillment.
That’s a tall order for any one person to live up to.
We used to rely on an entire village for our moral, social, emotional, and even sexual needs. Now, it’s often looked at as infidelity if we create any sort of intimacy with another being, even just a friend. Or we get lazy and don’t look for connection outside our cozy house and familiar partner.
Yet this can never last. Because ultimately, humans are biologically hardwired to be social… Very social. Which means you need an entire tribe, not just a partner.
4. Habits And Rituals Strengthen Your Relationship
Ever wondered why long-term relationships are so hard to maintain and divorce rates are so high?
It’s because we were never meant to stay with one person for 70 years. Think about it — we used to not even live that long.
Some people still don’t want long-term relationships. But for those of us who want to stay with our partner but keep the love fresh, the habits and rituals we have as individuals and as couples are very important.
So what does Esther Perel, who’s studied relationships all over the world, suggest?
She says that the first thing to recognize is that “too many relationships fall into disrepair because they just got left to rust.” All relationships have ebbs and flows… but it’s how you handle those ebbs and flows that either supports the success or the failure of the relationship.
People in successful partnerships have found ways to resuscitate their love and desire by being willing to try new things, stay engaged, and spice things up. Date nights, vacations, love notes, and honest and open communication are all simple ways you can reconnect to your partner.
And as long as you stay present in your relationship, replenish the source of your love, and willfully correct and forgive errors, your relationship has a great chance.
5. You Never Have To Feel Rejected
We all want the people we like to like us. Sometimes, we even want the people we dislike to like us. The need for connection and the fear of rejection are two of the most difficult things to reconcile. This fear, which can stem from a general lack of confidence or a sudden re-immersion in the dating scene, can paralyze us.
Because, let’s face it, rejection sucks. Luckily, you never have to allow the other person to make you feel rejected. Someone saying no to a date isn’t an indicator or an attack on how worthy of a human being you are.
And the sooner you realize that, the easier time you will have opening yourself up to new heights in your romantic, social, and career life.
6. Change The Beginning, Not The Ending
Have you ever found yourself dating someone that had the same bad habits as your ex — or maybe even your parents?
I have… And I didn’t like it. There’s nothing more frustrating that recreating the same dysfunctional relationships we tried to escape from earlier in life. So why do we repeat the same mistakes?
One of the most poignant moments in the entire discussion was when Marisa Peer mentioned that so many of her clients have this same problem. And the reason? It’s not because you’re crazy or because you consciously like pain. It’s because the brain — your brain — is designed to like that which is familiar.
The brain likes patterns. Every relationship or experience or thought or action of yours acts as the blueprint for your future. Our brains like to loop back to the same thoughts, the same behaviors, the same desires, the same people, the same emotions, and, yes, even the same pain.
How many of us have started a relationship with the wrong person, even when there were red flags all along the way? And how many of us thought that we could make them kinder, more responsible, change them in some way? By the time we realize that we can’t change them, we’ve already spent years, sometimes decades, in the relationship.
Marisa Peer suggests a very simple but profound solution: “Life’s too short to change the ending, change the beginning.”
7. Don’t Take Life Too Seriously
The most important insight I got from the entire discussion is one I’m still trying to soak up and apply: not taking life (or myself) too seriously.
The reason this discussion is unlike any other is because the people on stage and the people in the audience connect and laugh over subjects that are usually taboo. Love and sex are areas where people feel there are a lot of “shoulds” and judgments.
But life is an experience, and you’re supposed to have moments of joy, sadness, frustration, meaningfulness, love, desire, and tranquility. Embrace it. Embrace it in your relationships, in your work, and in every other area of your life. Have fun.
And if the role you’re playing out in life right now is not fun? Change it. Your brain likes your old stories and might give you a bit of resistance. But your soul will thank you for saying, “I’m ready for a new script now.”
Now that we’ve broken the ice of embarrassment on this subject, take the chance to explore how you feel about love and sex — and talk about it with your partner.